Books provide so many things, at different times and for different people. More often than not, however, they expand our world. They introduce to new places, and people, and ideas. They develope our vocabulary and show us how to use language in new and exciting ways. They make us consider ourselves and the people around us. They inspire and give us hope.
One of the most wonderful things my parents gave to me was the joy of reading. This simple passion has taken me to so many places, metaphorically and literally, that I may never have gone if it were not for them. And it all started with picture books. I was lucky that amongst my children’s picture books were insights into different cultures from my own, varied characters of different races, sexualities and backgrounds and introductions to difficult but important topics; I’m certain I’m a better person for it.
I was thinking about this most recently because of two books that came through my letter box (OK the postie had to ring the doorbell). These are truly beautiful books: beautiful ideas, beautiful words and beautiful images. They break down prejudices, open up the reader’s mind and potentially make some feel a little less alone. For that reason I had to share them with you all in someway or another.
First is The Journey by Francesca Sanna.
This beautiful hardback book is published by Flying Eye Books, the children’s imprint of Nobrow. It tells the story of a family (a mother and her two children) who are forced to flee their country because it has become an incredibly dangerous place to live. In a short space of time they become refugees. They have suffered the loss of those they love and had to abandon the place they called home. It follows the difficulties they face and gives life to the stories the children’ mother must tell them to help them understand why their lives have been turned upside down. They relate their own journey to that of the animals and in particular to migrating birds who fly across land and sea unrestricted by borders. It inspires wonder, compassion and understanding. It makes me hope for a better future and want to be a part of the world that brings that about. Not to mention I would like entire pages blown up as prints to hang on my wall they are so magnificent.
Then we have I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail.
This lovely picture book is published by Bloomsbury and was most recently shortlisted for the 2016 IBW Book Award. This story follows two friends whose story breaks down gender stereotypes. The book refuses to let the children it depicts be pigeon holed. It embraces free expression of who one is without the shackles of gender constructs. What is masculine and what is feminine falls apart in the words and drawings shown here. It is a wonderful example to all children to be themselves and accept others for who they are. Gender stereotyping begins to set in for many at a very young age, whether consciously or subconsciously, so providing alternatives to those restrictive boxes from a young age is equally important. Rather than struggling to find one’s way out of these bindings as teenagers or adults beautiful picture books such as these can perhaps prevent those ropes from wrapping themselves quite so tightly in the first place.
If you have any favourite picture books that tackle topics you don’t see being illustrated often enough then please do share them with myself and everyone else in the comments section! And if you love reading picture books, to yourself or the children in your life, then I hope you can pick up or borrow these two beautiful titles at some point in the future.